When he was a toddler, Attxla’s mother used to drive him around Port Arthur listening to music to help him fall asleep. Saturated in the female R&B canon (Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Mary J. Blige, Anita Baker), those listening sessions formed a strong association between music and sleep for the artist and solidified his soulful musical influences. His recent album Ebb is plenty proof of that.
Clocking in at just under half an hour, the concise, hypnotic effort captures those hazy moments of slipping into sleep or sliding out of it. Attxla’s consistently silky, resonant vocals are the kind that make you ecstatically nod your head up and down in endless agreement of his seemingly boundless range. Lyrically he wrestles with themes of self-reflection, self-actualization, and unrequited love. By album’s end, you might find yourself asking if the listening experience was, in fact, a dream. With each song seamlessly bubbling into the next one, it’s hard to press pause on the reverie.
“I’ve always had this fantasy of having a project where you can just listen to it all the way through. There’s no hard stops, there’s no gaps, there’s no open air. It’s just like one long track but it doesn’t feel long,” he says by phone with the Houston Press.
Out of all of Ebb’s trance-like tracks, no other song blends all of Attxla’s influences more than album highlight “Like I Do,” featuring local rapper Kenner Wells. R&B, neo soul, pop, and electronica shine as one under John Allen Stephens’ prismatic production. When a hip-hop tinged bridge drops, hitting the song as hard as your car might hit a pothole driving down West Alabama Street, it’s hard not to be reminded of hometown hero Beyoncé’s influence.
Set closer “Sway,” featuring Houston native, chill-pop artist LYTA, sifts between contemplation and surrender as the two vocalists harmoniously blend voices. The artists exchange a tranquil dialogue in one of the album’s most memorable choruses, one, Attxla says, LYTA wrote in under an hour on just three hours of sleep.
Production on the album began in October 2018 after Attxla crossed paths with local producer John Allen Stephens at a show at Satellite Bar. As they began their recording process, Stephens suggested that Attxla unearth a common thread between all of the songs that were to be on the project.
“I kept finding this recurrence of a sort of feeling of as I’m going in or out of a moment in my writing that it felt like I was being either submerged or that I was surfacing basically in or out of water. There was a lot of reference to water as a vehicle, to move forward, or sinking,” he says.
On album opener and Summer single “Choose Him,” he harnesses his affinity for the moon, water, and tides.
“There’s this relationship between the moon and water and how the moon influences the water and how the water influences the moon – which, I’m pretty sure the water doesn’t do much to the moon,” he says through a laugh. “But that also has something to say – that means something, that the water doesn’t have much influence on the moon and what it does, but the moon has so much influence on the water and what it does,” he says of the song, drawing a metaphor between it and unrequited love. He recalls the song’s origins – a juicy, yet tangled, situation in which he had feelings for two people at once.
“I started to regret it. It started to set in. It started to hurt more,” he says. “Both of them had no clue I liked them and both of them had no clue how much they meant to me, and they started talking to each other. So it was more like a battle with my own mind,” he says.
“But then I kind of thought about it and I was like, you know what? If not me, I’d rather y’all talk to each other because I like y’all both that much. So if not me – choose him.”
Stream "Choose Him" on YouTube below and all of Ebb on Spotify and Apple Music. You can follow Attxla on Instagram @attxla.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.